Spleen Enlargement: What is it, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
The spleen is located in the upper left abdomen. It has functions such as filtering the blood, storing it and producing some blood cells. Normally, the spleen is of a certain size and ensures the balanced functioning of the body. However, in some cases, the spleen may enlarge for various reasons. When the spleen enlarges, it can put pressure on the surrounding organs, causing pain, discomfort and bloating.
What is Spleen Enlargement?
An enlarged spleen is a condition medically called splenomegaly. Various health problems such as infections, blood diseases, liver problems, metabolic diseases, and lymphatic system problems can cause spleen enlargement. It usually occurs as a result of another underlying health problem and can manifest itself with various symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Spleen Enlargement?
Symptoms and severity of spleen enlargement may vary between patients. Symptoms include:
- Stomach ache: An enlarged spleen can cause pain and discomfort in the abdominal area. The enlarged spleen can put pressure on surrounding tissues, causing abdominal pain.
- Abdominal Swelling: An enlarged spleen may cause a feeling of bloating in the abdominal area. This bloating can affect the appearance of the abdomen.
- Loss of appetite: The enlarged spleen can put pressure on the stomach area, causing loss of appetite.
- Fever and Infection Symptoms: An enlarged spleen can affect the normal function of the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections. As a result, fever, chills and other signs of infection may occur.
- Weight Loss: An enlarged spleen can cause a loss of energy in the body and lead to weight loss.
What Causes Spleen Enlargement?
The underlying causes of spleen enlargement are diverse and are usually the result of a health problem that leads to an increase in size. Causes of spleen enlargement include:
- Infections: Infections are one of the common causes of spleen enlargement. Bacterial, viral and parasitic infections can activate the body’s defense mechanisms, causing an increase in the spleen. Infections such as malaria, mononucleosis, and endocarditis can lead to spleen enlargement.
- Blood Diseases: The spleen has a significant impact on the structure and composition of blood. Disorders in blood cell production and destruction can cause spleen enlargement. Cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, and genetic blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia can trigger spleen enlargement.
- Liver Problems: Liver problems can sometimes lead to an enlarged spleen. In particular, conditions such as liver cirrhosis can cause spleen enlargement, leading to a condition called portal hypertension.
- Metabolic Disorders: Metabolic diseases can affect the normal functioning of chemical reactions in the body and lead to spleen enlargement. Disorders that affect lipid metabolism, such as Gaucher disease, can cause spleen enlargement.
- Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune diseases and chronic infections, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause widespread inflammation throughout the body, which can lead to an enlarged spleen.
- Lymphatic System Problems: The spleen is closely related to the lymph system. Therefore, some lymph diseases can cause spleen enlargement.
How is Spleen Enlargement Diagnosed?
The patient’s medical history, symptoms and physical examination are important in the diagnosis and diagnosis phase. A variety of information is also used, including imaging tests and laboratory results. The doctor first physically examines the patient’s abdominal area and examines the spleen size. The doctor may notice this if the spleen is larger than normal or sensitive to touch. Imaging methods provide more detailed information about the enlarged spleen. Tests such as ultrasonography and computed tomography (CT) can help evaluate spleen size. At the same time, blood tests can evaluate spleen function and blood cell levels. Parameters such as hematocrit and platelet count can be signs of spleen problems.
Spleen Enlargement Treatment
Treatment of spleen enlargement may vary depending on the type and severity of the underlying cause. Treatment begins with the diagnosis and treatment of the underlying health problem that causes spleen enlargement. If conditions such as infections, blood diseases or liver problems are detected, specific treatment protocols for these diseases are applied. Depending on the underlying cause, doctors may sometimes prescribe medications. Medications for infections or autoimmune diseases may relieve symptoms caused by an enlarged spleen. Medication is based on the doctor’s evaluation of the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and underlying cause. The type, dosage, and duration of medications are determined by the patient’s unique condition. The success of the treatment can be achieved by taking medications regularly as recommended by the doctor and following the doctor’s instructions.
If spleen enlargement is due to blood diseases and problems such as anemia occur, doctors may recommend blood transfusions. Blood transfusion can help rebalance blood cells. In some cases, an overgrown and uncomfortable spleen can be surgically removed. After splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen), the body’s immune system continues to function. But some infection risks may increase. The surgical procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia. Laparoscopic surgery method is used as an option that is performed with smaller incisions and has a faster recovery process. Laparoscopic splenectomy is less invasive than traditional open surgery and can shorten patients’ hospital stay. Types of splenectomy are as follows:
- Total Splenectomy: Total splenectomy involves complete removal of the spleen. This procedure may be preferred in cases of serious conditions such as spleen enlargement or spleen cancer. After total splenectomy, immune system function may be slightly affected and patients may be at some risk of infection.
- Partial Splenectomy: Partial splenectomy involves removing only the enlarged part of the spleen. This method is selected based on spleen size and may help the patient better maintain immune system function.
After the treatment process, patients are monitored with regular check-ups.
Spleen Enlargement in Children
Enlarged spleen in children (pediatric splenomegaly) is a condition that can occur as a result of various health problems, just like in adults. The spleen plays an important role in defending against infections and diseases in the children’s body. Causes of spleen enlargement in children include:
- Infections: In children, viral, bacterial and parasitic infections can cause spleen enlargement. Infections can activate the child’s immune system, leading to an enlarged spleen.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune diseases in children are conditions in which the body directs the immune system against its own tissues. This condition can cause an enlarged spleen and other health problems.
- Blood Diseases: Problems with blood cells can lead to an enlarged spleen in children. Conditions such as hemolytic anemia can cause spleen enlargement by increasing the destruction of blood cells.
- Metabolic Disorders: Metabolic diseases may be the cause of spleen enlargement in children.
Pediatric splenomegaly often occurs as a symptom of other health problems. Therefore, it is important to determine the underlying cause of spleen enlargement in children and apply its treatment. An enlarged spleen in children can cause certain symptoms. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and signs of infection (fever, chills, etc.). Treatment of spleen enlargement in children is aimed at diagnosing and treating the underlying health problem. Doctors evaluate the child’s health status and make a diagnosis using tools such as physical examination, blood tests and imaging methods. Treatment is determined based on the child’s specific condition and the severity of his or her symptoms. Medication, surgical intervention or other methods may be applied according to the child’s needs. In case of enlarged spleen in children, close communication with the pediatrician is important to ensure correct diagnosis and treatment.
The treatment plan is determined depending on the patient’s condition, the severity of his symptoms, and the type of underlying cause. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the most appropriate treatment approach after a detailed evaluation and diagnosis by a healthcare professional. It is important for people with symptoms of spleen enlargement to consult a health institution as soon as possible.